Writing and marketing your novel: A glimpse from the trenches

September 2, 2010

Day 79 of 365

Books sold so far (May and June 2010): 246

In this issue:

  • Writing topic – The Writing Life, better as fiction than as fact
  • Marketing Topic – Fewer clicks for more sales?

Writing topic – The Writing Life, better as fiction than as fact

The recent announcement from writer Christopher Hitchens that he’s battling cancer, a cancer that started in his esophagus, got me thinking about writers and what the Writing Life, or “the life” as many writers call it, does to one’s health.

While Hitchens states in the article “Topic of Cancer” in the Sept 2010 issue of Vanity Fair, that his father also had esophageal cancer, and died from it, I can’t help but think that Hitchens’s lifestyle upped the chances of getting a sickness he was already in line to get due to his genes.

Hitchens is a notorious drinker and a chain-smoker. Did these “hobbies” contribute to his cancer? Probably. But did they also make him the larger-than-life character that we see in our mind’s eye when we read his stuff? Definitely. And do we still need figures like these in our world? Absolutely!   

Hitchens is not a lonely man in the ‘hard living writers’ category. Many of the great geniuses had intimate relationships with the bottle and the pipe. Off the top of my head, Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson come to mind. Certainly these two men were great writers. But is being just a great writer enough to make a lasting impression on the world? Would Hemingway have been Papa if he drank tea at four o’clock everyday with scones and Devonshire pudding? Of course not. If I mention the name Hunter S. Thompson, does your head fill with passages from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Or does it fill with visions of the author blowing things up on his Woody Creek ranch, or the author sitting in a wrecked hotel room surrounded by enough drugs to make a dealer’s entire fiscal year?

Sadly, the images these people portray is the “hook” that grabs us to read their stuff. Hitchens played the part of the intellectual Brit who unapologetically loves his drink like a master. Whether it is a part that was the real him, or just a part he was playing, we may never know. Either way, I think he knew it is a part that all of us who like him and enjoy his stuff would love to play. And that was, in part, our attraction to him. Hopefully, it won’t be a part that will end in tragedy, for if Hitch loses his battle with cancer, a wonderful character in the play of Life will have been lost. And the world, especially the literary one, needs as many characters as it can get.   

So, the question for discussion that comes out of this is, should we judge writers solely on their words and ideas? Or, like we expect of our modern day heroes i.e. sports figures, should we hold them, behavior included, to a higher standard because they are living in the public spotlight?  

To the keyboards!

Marketing Topic – Fewer clicks for more sales

I was reviewing my website analytics page the other day and noticed two troubling things: one, I get many visitors to my site (average about 300 a week), but they don’t stay very long (avg length of visit is 40 seconds). Two, 80% enter and exit from the homepage. While I’m in talks with a web designer to change up the look of the site to make it more attractive and flow better, I was thinking about what web marketing folks say is most important: content. While my home page has links to my blog, the book trailer, a couple video interview links, and a link to read a preview of my latest book, The Brink, it doesn’t have the one thing that could suck people into the book – the sample of the book.

My book preview is over on “the novels” page, but that’s like the appe-teaser lady at the grocery store giving you a map to the sample at her booth instead of the sample itself. People don’t like jumping through hoops. They don’t like clicking and then having to click again. They should get a sample of your stuff right away! So, I’m adding my book preview to the homepage so it’s one of the first things they see when they visit my site. I’ll review if this adjustment ups the numbers next week.

Until then have a fantastic holiday weekend.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,

Rest easy tonight my friends, but stay hungry tomorrow…  

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